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How Internet Fame Caused This Little Lionel Messi Fan To Be Targeted By The Taliban

In 2016 Murtaza Ahmadi's photo went viral but his internet fame has now put his life in danger.

Dressed in a blue and white plastic bag with his hero’s name and number scrawled across the bottom in pen, the picture touched hearts across the world.

Lionel Messi fan Murtaza Ahmadi, with his plastic bag jersey in Afghanistan. Photo: Getty

But now that infamy is backfiring. The seven-year-old and his family are on the run from the Taliban and being recognised doesn’t help.

In November, the district of Ghazni was invaded by the Taliban. Along with 4,000 other families, Murtaza fled with his mother and brother.

The boy’s mother said militants have been searching for her son by name and have vowed to cut him to pieces if he is captured.

FC Barcelona Lionel Messi holds the hands of Afghan boy Murtaza Ahmadi on the pitch before the start of a friendly football match against Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli FC on December 13, 2016. Photo: Getty

She said they also believe Messi, one of the world’s highest-paid footballers gave them money.

"Local strongmen were calling and saying, ‘You have become rich, pay the money you have received from Messi or we will take your son.’”

The United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR set up a meeting between the little boy and the Argentinian star in December 2016, flying him to Qatar for a football match. It made global headlines.

Ahmadi walked away with life long memories and a real jersey with his idol’s signature. A priceless momento he has now been forced to leave behind along with all his other possessions.

"I want them back so I can play," Murtaza said.

"I miss Messi.”

"When I meet him (again), I will say, 'Salaam' and 'How are you?' Then he will reply saying thank you and be safe, and I will go with him to the pitch where he will play and I will watch him."

READ MORE: Lionel Messi And His Unusual Training Partner

Their father stayed behind to work on a farm, but the rest of the family made it to Kabul where they are now living in a cramped room.

During their flight to the capital, Murtaza’s mother covered his face with a veil so he wouldn’t be identified.

“We are scared that something bad will happen if someone recognises him,” said Murtaza’s brother Humayun.